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High hopes hinge on Bangabandhu Tunnel

October 28, 2023 00:00:00

Following are the full excerpts of the interview:

1) How will the communication sector benefit from opening of the Bangabandhu tunnel?

Ans: The Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel, also known as the Karnaphuli tunnel, is a groundbreaking infrastructure project in Chattogram, South Asia's first underwater road tunnel. This 3.4-kilometre tunnel connects Chattogram City at one end and the Rongadia Industrial Area in Anwara Upazila at the other. Upon its opening, the tunnel is expected to have a profound impact on communication links, yielding numerous benefits as listed below:

• Reduced Crossing Time: The tunnel will significantly cut the time required to traverse the Karnaphuli River, reducing it to a mere three minutes.

• Enhanced Capacity: The tunnel is designed to accommodate around 17,000 vehicles daily, with the potential to handle over 28,000 vehicles per day as needed.

• Bypass Route: For both local and long-distance travellers, it will serve as a bypass route for Chattogram traffic and those journeying from Dhaka to the popular tourist destination, Cox's Bazar. This will substantially decrease travel times for these commuters.

• Alternative Route: The tunnel will establish a connection between Chattogram, Cox's Bazar, Teknaf, and Matarbari via an alternative route, reducing the distance between Chattogram and Cox's Bazar by 40 kilometres.

• Transit Traffic: Anticipated growth in transit traffic is expected after the deep-sea port in Matarbari is completed, along with the connection to Myanmar.

• Improved Connectivity: This tunnel will enhance communication between the country's port city, Chattogram, and the airport and the seaport here, connecting them more efficiently with Bandarban and Cox's Bazar districts, as well as Anwara Upazila to the south.

• Facilitated Access: Upon project completion, the Chattogram airport, the Chittagong Port, the Patenga-Anwara link, and other key facilities including the under-construction bay terminal, Mirsarai Economic Zone, CUFL, Karnaphuli Fertilizer Company Limited, China EPZ, and Cox's Bazar coal power plant will be conveniently accessible via the tunnel and its approach road. This will simultaneously reduce travel time and costs.

The Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel represents a significant leap forward in building transportation infrastructure, offering a range of advantages to both local residents and the broader economy.

2) Is it possible to build Chattogram as one city, two towns as in China?

Ans: The Bangabandhu Tunnel, that has been built drawing inspiration from China's approach, is set to revolutionise the development in the city of Chattogram by effectively splitting it into two distinct areas, much like Shanghai's division. This transformation is made possible by the tunnel's strategic river-crossing location.

One end of the Bangabandhu Tunnel leads to the Chattogram city, while the other end seamlessly leads to Anwara Upazila. The tunnel's development is catalyzing a remarkable urban shift in Anwara, propelling it into a vibrant city. As a result, a surge of new industrial facilities, the construction of modern commercial structures, upscale dining establishments, state-of-the-art healthcare facilities, and the expansion of banking services are rapidly shaping up Anwara as a fully-fledged city.

3) Do you think, on opening of the Bangabandhu tunnel, the foreign investments will increase in Chattogram and industrialisation will be expanded up to south Chattogram?

Ans: The Bangabandhu Tunnel in Chattogram has the potential to attract foreign investment and expand industrialisation up to South Chattogram. The tunnel's development not only enhances connectivity within the region but also improves access to the southern parts of the city, including Anwara Upazila. Improved transportation infrastructure, like tunnels and bridges, often serves as a catalyst for economic development and foreign investment. This is because it can reduce transportation costs, improve logistics, and make the area more accessible. As a result, foreign investors may be more inclined to consider Chattogram as an attractive location for their investments.

Additionally, the development of modern infrastructure can lead to the expansion of industrial zones and commercial areas to previously underdeveloped regions. South Chattogram, being connected by the Bangabandhu Tunnel, may become more appealing for businesses looking to set up operations in the area.

4) Can the elevated expressway, Chattogram ring road and also the Bangabandhu tunnel change the communication system?

Ans: Yes, the elevated expressway, Chattogram Ring Road, and the Bangabandhu Tunnel can significantly transform the communication system in and around Chattogram. These infrastructure projects have the potential to bring about several positive changes in the communication and transportation network as given below:

• Improved Connectivity: The elevated expressway and Chattogram Ring Road create efficient transportation routes that can help reduce congestion and travel times. They also provide better connectivity between different parts of the city and the surrounding areas.

• Ease of Transportation: These projects can ease the movement of goods and people, making transportation more convenient and efficient. This can boost economic activities and trade in the region.

• Reduced Congestion: The improved road network can alleviate traffic congestion within Chattogram. This can lead to smoother daily commutes and reduce the time people spend stuck in traffic.

• Enhanced Logistics: The better transportation network can have a positive impact on the logistics and supply chain systems, making it easier for businesses to transport goods and manage their operations.

• Economic Growth: By facilitating the movement of goods and services, these projects can attract investments, promote industrialization, and stimulate economic growth in the region.

• Development of Outlying Areas: The projects may lead to the development of previously underdeveloped areas, as they become more accessible. This can encourage urban expansion and infrastructure development in these regions.

• Tourism: Improved communication systems can make Chattogram and its surrounding areas more attractive to tourists, potentially boosting the local tourism industry.

• Environmental Impact: Careful planning and design of these projects can also cover environmental factors, such as reducing pollution and conserving natural resources.

However, it's important for local authorities to manage these projects effectively, ensure proper maintenance, and address any potential environmental or social concerns that may arise. Effective urban planning and sustainable development are essential for maximizing the benefits of these infrastructural improvements.

5) What is the impact of the modern communication system like Bangabandhu tunnel on the economy?

Ans: The Bangabandhu Tunnel is poised to have a profound impact on the country's modern communication system and, consequently, its economy. This infrastructure development will bring about numerous improvements in various aspects, including transport efficiency, investment attraction, industrial growth, trade and exports, urban development, and tourism. Here's a more organized breakdown of its direct economic impacts:

• Expansion of Industrial and Tourism Areas: The Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel will play a pivotal role in expanding industrial and tourism zones south of the Karnaphuli River, providing a substantial economic boost to Bangladesh.

• Engineering Skills Development: The construction of the tunnel has not only been instrumental in its physical creation but has also fostered the training of over 50 local Bangladeshi engineers in tunnel construction and designing. These skilled engineers will contribute significantly to ongoing tunnel projects in Bangladesh, such as the Dhaka Metro.

• TBM Methodology: The project's success has instilled confidence into local experts in the use of Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) methodology, which is now being applied to other mega projects in Bangladesh, like the Dhaka Metro.

• Travel Time Reduction: The tunnel will serve as a bypass route for Chattogram traffic and travellers journeying from Dhaka to the popular tourist destination of Cox's Bazar, substantially reducing their travel time.

• Local Employment: During the operational phase, the tunnel will create direct economic benefits through tunnel management and operational services. Approximately 250 staff will be required during this stage, and all of them are expected to be locally hired Bangladeshis.

• Recreational Opportunities: In addition to Cox's Bazar, the Karnaphuli Tunnel Feasibility Report proposes recreational activities at Parkir Char on the eastern side of the Karnaphuli River and South Patenga on the western side, representing the latest developments.

• Direct GDP Contribution: According to the feasibility report, the tunnel is projected to directly contribute 0.166 per cent to the country's GDP every year for the next five decades.

In summary, the Bangabandhu Tunnel will serve as a critical driver for economic growth in Bangladesh, with its far-reaching effects, encompassing infrastructure development, human resource development, and direct contributions to the nation's GDP in the long term.

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